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When a Company's All About a 'Great Heart'

May 7, 2009 By:
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Bill Mills (second from right), accepts the Anti-Defamation League's Americanism award on behalf of PNC from Ann Weaver Hart, president of Temple University; Roberta Liebenberg, Philadelphia board chair of the ADL and attorney for Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C; and Barry Morrison, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

For Bill Mills, president of PNC for Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, corporate philanthropy is a classic "win-win" situation.

"PNC is an important stakeholder in the Greater Philadelphia region, where thousands of our employees and customers live and work," he said. "The more we can do to make our community a better place, the better PNC will do, and the better our shareholders will do. It is all intertwined."

Through the PNC Foundation -- the charitable arm for the PNC Financial Services Group -- partnerships are formed with community-based nonprofit organizations to help them achieve their goals, as well as further mutual objectives.

Mills stated that "the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is a valued social investment partner that shares PNC's cores values of respect for the individual and diversity. We know that we can depend on Federation to deliver quality services to Philadelphia's Jewish community."

In turn, Federation has come to depend upon PNC's generous support as a corporate sponsor for numerous programs, initiatives and special events.

"Since 1992, PNC's philanthropy has helped Federation to raise the funds necessary to support our Jewish elderly, provide the impoverished with food and shelter, enhance Jewish identity, secure economic and political freedom for Jews worldwide, give spiritual and emotional relief to those facing life challenges, ensure the future of Israel and her people, and make a quality Jewish education more affordable," explained Federation President Leonard Barrack.

He expressed admiration for Mills' leadership and PNC's commitment to being "a great corporate citizen."

Mills was also impressed by the work done by another Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League, describing it as "an organization that stands up for everyone's civil and religious liberties."

Mills served as 2008 chair of ADL's corporate board and took great pride in the organization's Miller Early Childhood Initiative, which provides anti-bias workshops and materials designed to train early-childhood educators, caregivers and family members to help kids understand, respect and appreciate people of all backgrounds.

"A national study revealed that, by the age of 6, almost 50 percent of children already have biases; therefore, it is never too early to help children learn to understand, respect and appreciate differences," said Mills.

The ADL's Miller Early Childhood Initiative meshed well with PNC Grow Up Great, the company's 10-year, $100 million investment in early-childhood education that fosters success in school and life skills.

Now celebrating its fifth year, PNC's "Grow Up Great" is one of the most comprehensive corporate-based school-readiness program in the country.

"For every $1 spent on quality early education, it is estimated that society reaps as much as $17 in long-term savings," said Mills. "If we improve the quality and access to early education, we as a nation won't have to spend nearly as much money later on special education, remedial job training and correctional facilities."

PNC partnered with the ADL to provide anti-bias workshops for teachers, adult family members of children enrolled in partner Head Start centers and PNC employee volunteers. The goal was to help them help children understand, respect and appreciate differences.

Mills was particularly pleased to accept ADL's 2008 Americanism Award in recognition of PNC's continued commitment to the region's long-term growth and strength. The award salutes leaders in business, community affairs and charitable endeavors who distinguish themselves and their organizations in their dedication to preserving liberty and advancing the causes of human rights, dignity and equal opportunity.

Another milestone moment for Mills was the tribute paid to him during the 2005 gala sponsored by Business Leaders Organized for Catholic Schools, a group that Mills co-chaired from 2002 through 2005.

BLOCS relies upon the support of business leaders, foundations and individuals to financially assist families in need, regardless of race, color, creed, or national or ethnic origin. Since 1998, the organization has raised $8.7 million for the Catholic schools, enabling 11,000 children to receive a Catholic education.

This past February, PNC invited The Philadelphia Tribune's President and CEO Robert W. Bogle to moderate a luncheon and employee event in celebration of Black History Month. PNC's keynote speaker was Rutha Harris, a freedom singer and civil-rights pioneer.

"PNC's commitment to diversity is about creating opportunities within the workplace and community, where everyone can fulfill their potential without barriers," said Mills. "It is in that spirit that PNC is working to encourage greater diversity in the way we behave as a corporation and community leader."

PNC's philanthropic philosophy of "doing the right thing" has helped establish strong roots as it has grown to become one of America's top banks.

"During this economic downturn, we have differentiated ourselves by not getting involved in some business practices that have damaged some of our competitors, " said Mills.

When interviewed for this story, Mills was involved in activities for the Philadelphia Flower Show, where PNC has served as presenting sponsor for 18 years.

"The Philadelphia Flower Show has a tremendous economic impact, bringing in more than $30 million to the region," said Mills. "In addition, the proceeds from the Flower Show support the Pennsylvania Horticulture's Philadelphia Green program, the largest urban greening program in the nation."

Mills explained that "we don't do a lot of projects involving bricks and mortar or diseases; we focus on arts and cultural institutions, and programs that improve the quality of education."

He stated that "in business as in life, it is important to strike a balance. If you are all business or are all heart, you can not function effectively."

 

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